FORMER Newport County manager Len Ashurst says the decision to sell Conor Washington in January has cost the Exiles in the League Two run-in.

Ashurst is to be inducted into the League Managers Association hall of fame next month having taken charge of more than 1,000 matches in the professional game during a long and distinguished career.

He was County boss from June 1978 to February 1982 and enjoyed the most successful season of his career in 1979-80 when the Ironsides lifted the Welsh Cup and celebrated promotion to the old Division Three.

The Liverpudlian then led County to the quarter-finals of the European Cup Winners’ Cup in March 1981 only to fall agonisingly short against East German side Carl Zeiss Jena.

Ashurst still keeps an eye on his old club and says County have had a good season, although he believes it could have been even better if Washington hadn’t been sold to Peterborough United.

“My family are still living in Newport and they go the games so they keep me informed,” he said.

“Overall I think it’s a good season for the club in their first year back in the Football League.

“But I think it was a poor move to sell Washington. It undermined the manager and weakened the team.”

Ashurst also took charge of South Wales rivals Cardiff City on two separate occasions and had one season as Sunderland boss before spells with clubs in Kuwait, Qatar and Malaysia.

He will be an interested spectator at the Stadium of Light on Sunday as Sunderland and Cardiff clash in a crunch relegation battle.

He will be there in his capacity as a Premier League match delegate assessing the referees at the top level and he’s warned the Black Cats that he could be a lucky omen for the Bluebirds.

“It’s a huge game and whoever loses will probably go down,” he said. “The bad news for Sunderland is that I’ve seen them seven times this season and they haven’t won any so they might ban me from the ground!”

Now 74, Ashurst and his wife Valerie live in retirement at Whitburn in the North East of England.

He will be inducted into the hall of fame on May 12 alongside Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger and he is delighted to be recognised.

“A thousand games is a lot and you do wonder where the time has gone,” said Ashurst.

“I’ve managed something like 750 in this country and 1,086 in total and it is a great achievement. I’m very proud.”